The common theme around the Red Deer Rebels this season is that their blue-line strength will be among the league’s best.
While returning a solid core to the defensive group, the Rebels will also look to some younger players to step up.
But as the old saying goes defence wins championships and Red Deer is banking on that in the 2023-24 campaign.
“I would say we’ve had one of the better defensive cores in the league for a couple of years now and we just keep building every year,” defenceman Jace Weir told The Advocate.
“I think this year heading into the season I think we have a good D-core again and I’m super excited.”
Weir is heading into his third full year with the Rebels and is joined by fellow veterans Matteo Fabrizi, Hunter Mayo, Nicholas Andrusiak, Mats Lindgren, and Quentin Bourne. After losing defenceman Christoffer Sedoff due to graduating from the league, Weir hopes to step up his game.
“Every year you get older you mature a little bit more and take on that leadership role. Even just taking a bigger role on the team with guys leaving,” he said.
“I’m just just trying to get better every day just coming to the rink with the right mindset. I’m just trying to get one per cent better every day and just listening to our coaches and trusting what they have to say.”
Weir added they’re experienced but also have plenty of young guys coming in who have good potential.
“I think we’re very well evenly balanced. Everyone brings something a little bit different to their game,” he said. Owner and general manager Brent Sutter bolstered their blue line in the offseason bringing in 20-year-old defenceman Elias Carmichael.
In addition, Red Deer’s first-round pick in the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft Luke Vlooswyk could make the jump to the WHL among others.
Last year the Rebels were knocked out in the second round of the WHL playoffs after blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Saskatoon Blades. Weir explained they felt they could have gone deeper into the postseason and that’s their mindset this time around.
“We’re just going in with the mentality that we can win and I think it’s going to be a really fun year and we can do something with this team.”
Carmichael, who’s played the last four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, will be counted on in a leadership role with the Rebels.
That’s something he’s not new to after serving as an assistant captain last season in B.C.
“I know a couple of big names left last year and I’m sure I’ll have to fill their boots as much as I can. We’ll see how it goes,” he said.
The Langley, B.C. product has spent the last few weeks in Red Deer after he was traded to central Alberta’s team in the summer.
He said so far he’s felt right at home.
“I really love it here. They’ve been very welcoming so far and I really like the place I’m staying at with my billet parents,” Carmichael said.
“This group is very tight and I can’t wait to start the season off and join this group.”
Carmichael is a defensive first type of rearguard who loves to play on the penalty kill and block shots. He hopes to help Red Deer clinch their second straight central division title and go far in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely exciting. I’ve had my fair share of what a good team looks like as a 16-year-old hosting the Memorial Cup but this team definitely looks like it. Hopefully, we’ll go far.”